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Body Image | American Bodies

Salon has run a two page series of poems from readers on the theme We sing the body electric…. Here is one of them:

It finally happened at 30
my body left its confines
after years of spinning turbines
the cigarettes and wine glasses
of twentysomething dating classes.

The butt that never gained a thing
a lure for men, a giggling thing
that danced all night in gowns once worn
by tiny 20s movie stars.

But now a meal lasts a great deal longer
than lingering eyes over wine and pasta
and goes to my thighs like white on rice.
Hey Mom – I’ve discovered cellulite!

How now begins this epic battle?
Will esteem drop with hips that waddle?
I’ve heard the elders mutter bitter
of tits that sag, how men must gag
and that one day I’ll understand.

But this precious territory
is sadly, only temporary
And it’s the only one I’ve got
for life’s in motion, life is not
the perfect frozen laundry list
the measure of the men you’ve kissed,
so let me die an onanist!

As a group the poems tend to describe dissatisfaction with one’s body, generally on grounds of excess – being overweight. What’s interesting about the poems written or at least the ones chosen is that they tend express resignation at one’s rotundness and sometimes even celebration of it.

Rather than a diet and exercise – habits not beyond the reach of most healthy adults. But beyond most Americans. America seems to be a nation of extremes – 100% gym bunnies, male and female, typified by Jennifer Lopez – with bodies hard as rock. Or your pudgy everyday American, who is wearing two or three sizes above what he or she should be wearing at a given age.

Leadership of the free world indeed.

Curiously the frontman for all the attacks on civilians and the destruction of the constitution (yes, George Bush) does actually lead a close to ideal way of life with a daily two hours of exercise. Is exercise is an essential component in the life of a reformed alcoholic? Instead of the bottle, the bike. There is a chemical release (endorphins) very similar to the gentle delirium of an extra drink too, but more focused, more concentrated.

While the poetry is amusing, it is quite saddening to think that these limerick chimerae were the best effort that an educated public (readers of Salon) could muster in 2005. Eighty years ago the poetry would have been much better.

Waistlines too.

The Americans truly live in decadent times. They regress politically (presumption of innocence, the New Deal, the social contract, wars of aggression), aesthetically and in terms of both diet and lifestyle.

One Comment

  1. Bushwick Bill Bushwick Bill

    Oh please, please, I beg you: Stop being obsessed with America and Americans. Stop it! Get a life! Also, stop thinking that you “know” America because you’re familiar with some of our pop culture. You’re no more an expert on America and life here than I am of Australia because I watch the “Cocodile Hunter”! America is a helluva lot more complex than you European twits can even comprehend. I implore you: stop labeling us Americans, de-humanizing us, thinking you know us, because you’re familiar with our lingo. You don’t know us, and your asses will get burned when Americans wake up to how evil you Europeans are and then decide to deal with you once and for all. I promise you, you won’t like it. So back off, bitches, NOW–while you still can.

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